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Grieving mother says EBR school did not address bullying complaint prior to son's death

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BATON ROUGE - After three separate visits to Westdale Middle School, Rosalynn Thyssen said her concerns were not resolved when her son, 13-year-old Traeh Thyssen took his own life Thursday. His suicide is now the focus of a criminal investigation by the Baton Rouge Police Department.

"I really wanted a peaceful resolve and wanted to make sure there would be an end to this incident," Thyssen said. "Policies would be in place so incidents like this would not happen in the future, but that did not happen because just like pain, they didn't believe Traeh was in pain."

It all began 11 days ago when Traeh sent his mom a text saying another student cut his hair at school. She immediately left her job and went to Westdale Middle to discuss the situation with administrators. Last week, East Baton Rouge Parish School Superintendent Warren Drake said that Friday everything was resolved.

"When that incident happened the family was called in, the SRO (school resource officer) was called in and they talked to 5 or 6 p.m. and had a good conclusion to that conversation," Drake said.

Thyssen said that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, she said the situation was not concluded or resolved, so she had to go back to school Monday the following week and returned again Tuesday. She said her son was burned with a hot glue gun on the arm, and a student cut his hair.

Less than 48 hours after her visit to school that Tuesday, Traeh took his own life.

"My oldest son found him, followed by his sister," Thyssen said. "They were 15 months apart and were very close and came and got me."

Thyssen said she doesn't believe school administrators acted fast enough.

"It's like everyone was protected but my child because he didn't appear to be in pain."

The situation was so concerning involving the incident on the Friday before Thyssen's death, Baton Rouge Police opened a criminal investigation to determine whether bullying led to it.

"Kids may pick on other kids, but at some point it may go too far," said Don Coppola, with Baton Rouge Police. "We want the message to kids to be that this is serious, and we look into cases like this and any bullying incident won't be tolerated."

Thyssen said she wants to see an end to bullying and is surprised that she still has not heard from the school system.

"His name is Traeh. It's heart spelled backwards," Thyssen said. "He is everything that his name suggests: loving, compassionate and forgiving. Before I say I don't want to hear from them, I can't have that angry spirit... Because my child didn't have an angry spirit."

She believes others can learn from this.

"Take these situations seriously, whether the student appears to be hurt or not," Thyssen said. "Every situation as minor as you think it is listen to the parents and be quicker with the responses."

The Baton Rouge Police Department said it is in the process of conducting interviews and reviewing social media and phones to see if additional bullying was going on. BRPD acknowledged that criminal investigations into bullying are extremely rare.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System said Friday it reached out to Thyssen's Uncle to express their condolences. Monday, a spokeswoman said their investigation is ongoing.


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